*All of these thoughts and opinions are from my talking to nurses, doctors, and my personal experience during my pregnancy. They should not replace you discussing your concerns or questions with your doctor.*
This post will hopefully be informational for those pregnant ladies who, like me, have these weird feelings and immediately go to Dr. Google to figure out what that strange thing is. Thankfully, I haven’t ever been worried about any of these feelings or symptoms, but I am more curious. Unfortunately, I never could find a good article about what a Braxton Hicks feels like, or any more about baby kicks (other than “gas” or “stomach butterflies”). That always irritated me, so here’s what I have experienced on the subject of Braxton Hicks (BH) and Baby Kicks:
1. What Braxton Hicks Contractions (BH) Feel Like
From the outside, all of a sudden, the lower abdomen (actually your uterus) gets really hard. I mean, rock solid. Talk about abs! Except, it’s all uterus (sorry, no 6-pack here). If you run your hand along your stomach, you can actually feel the shape of your uterus. As I’ve progressed in my pregnancy, some parts of the uterus are much bumpier and lumpier than others, but the hardness is undeniable during a BH. You think your stomach is hard by just being pregnant, but you wait until you have a BH!
From the inside, everything feels very tight all of a sudden. It becomes harder to walk (if you are standing up), stand up (if you are sitting), or move. If you try to walk, you will waddle. While a BH doesn’t hurt, it can be uncomfortable. Think of an intense pressure from the inside. Lately (starting at about 22 weeks), I felt BH and the need to pee at the same time. That was really uncomfortable. Plus, every time I went to the bathroom to pee, it would be accompanied with a BH. How fun! Thankfully, this is totally normal, as the contraction of your bladder is similar to the practice contractions of a BH (thank you to my insurance’s 24/7 nurse line for assuring me of that).
Oh, and these typically last about 30 seconds. Not too long, and it is a relief when they subside.
2. How Early Can You Feel BH?
The first time I felt a Braxton Hicks contraction (BH), I was probably about 11 or 12 weeks pregnant, but I had no idea that was what it was. I actually thought it was one of the babies just moving around really close to the outside. It was only a couple of weeks later when I was sitting by the pool with my mom and I experienced this sensation and asked her, I realized I had been having BH for weeks.
3. Should I worry about a BH?
In a short answer, no. Although, you do hear the word “contraction,” and it is alarming (especially when you are so early in your pregnancy). These contractions are totally normal, for the most part. In most of the baby books, they say that BH contractions will start well into the mid/late 2nd trimester. Mine started much earlier with the twins (end of 1st trimester), and thankfully, this is totally normal (and something that the baby books won’t tell you). If you think about it, the whole purpose of a muscle is to contract. The uterus is a muscle, and it is doing its job. In fact, it has such an important job in a couple of months with those contractions! So, with the BH contractions, it is just practicing and getting ready for its big performance around Month Nine.
You should be concerned when your BH start coming in more regular intervals (4 in 30 minutes or 6-8 in one hour). I have had a couple of evenings on days following lots of activity when I have had a bunch of BH. When I called the after-hours doctor, their big instructions were to drink lots of water in a short amount of time (32 oz), take 2 extra-strength Tylenols, and put my feet up. This should help to alleviate the symptoms and frequency of the contractions. If they don’t go away, this could be a sign of true contractions/labor, so call your doctor!
4. Baby Girl Kicks
Baby Girl (Baby A) is located lower down towards my pelvis/cervix, and she is also further back. Because of this, we don’t feel her kick from the outside as often as her brother. While she is typically more subdued than her male sibling, she definitely has moments of strong activity. Her kicks are really interesting feeling. You know the moment when you realize you have gas bubbles- like when you know you are going to “fluff” (girls don’t fart, they “fluff”) any moment? It is right before the release of gas. Well, that is what her kicks feel like. No, there isn’t gas associated with her kicks, but that is what it feels like: a very low gurgle of movement in my pelvis area. She typically does this for many minutes on end, and then she settles down. She usually only kicks like this when I am sitting on the couch or in my craft room or laying down right before falling asleep or when I wake up.
When I lay down on my side, I can sometimes feel these types of kicks, but she also can rotate a little closer to the surface, and I feel them more in the front of my body. This is when her kicks feel a little more like her brother (see below).
5. Baby Boy Kicks
Baby Boy (Baby B) is higher up, above the belly button. We could start to feel him from the outside at 20 weeks immediately after a very long and pressure-filled ultrasound (lots of pushing and prodding from the ultrasound tech). He didn’t like that, and he let us know.
From the inside, his kicks feel like a muscle spasm. It’s something you can’t control, and you never know when it is going to happen. It just… happens.
He usually kicks when I am sitting in a chair or the couch and leaning back. I think this is because it gives him the most room to stretch out, and he likes to stretch out and show us who’s boss.
Yet, he can also be a stinker and, after lunch or dinner (bigger meals), he decides that he doesn’t want to compete for room with my stomach and the digesting food. So, he moves further up into my ribs. It causes a deep, strong, constant pain in my ribs (one side or the other) and an accompanied pain in the middle of my back. I also tend to have a harder time catching my breath at this time. Not pleasant, and NOT comfortable. This pain will typically last about 10-20 minutes until he feels he has more room and moves back down. I have learned that, if I feel this movement coming on, I can push my hands against the area where he is to push him back down, as if to say “I’m the boss here, buddy, so you will just have to stay put.” I do feel bad about this, though, and I usually accompany it with some love-filled words of “I’m sorry, Baby Boy, but you can’t cause Mommy pain right now.”
In addition, if I want to feel him kick from the outside (or inside), all I have to do it put pressure on my stomach when leaning back in a chair/couch. I can cross my arms, rest my elbow on my stomach, or simply put pressure with my hand on my stomach. He fights back! We also discovered that if I go golfing with Tim (I stay in the golf cart while he hits the ball) or watch football, Baby Boy wakes up and gets active. We joke that he is ready to join the DGA (Doyle Golf Association) and jump to Enter Sandman at our Hokie football games.
6. Feeling the Difference Between Baby Girl and Baby Boy
I have gotten so many questions from others about how I know which baby is which. First off, their locations are totally different (as explained above). Yes, they move around in their given area, but Baby Girl is below my belly button, and Baby Boy is above it. No, they won’t switch positions. Yes, they will flip and turn, but they only have a certain amount of room in there. We have caught Baby Boy kicking Baby Girl on our 24 week ultrasound, but they stay on their designated sides of the womb (get that play on words: room / womb?).
Second, their kicks are totally different, as explained above. Baby Boy’s kicks feel like like muscle spasms. Baby Girl’s are like gas bubbles. Plus, I can definitely feel where the feelings are coming from. It’s so cool, but I have to admit, there are times that I would like to sit on the couch, do nothing, and be able to relax. The babies have other ideas, as that is their time to let me know they love me with their kicks and jabs. Do I really mind? Absolutely not! Oh, the things we endure (and love) for our babies (she says with a huge smile on her face).